Sun February 6, 2011

Come to the Dark Side Of The Chicken. It's Tastier.

When the average American shopper goes down the meat aisle, they take a look at the packages of chicken and almost always reach for the white meat.

That means a whole lot of leftover legs for U.S. chicken producers to walk off. Why do we like chicken breasts so much — and how can we cross over to the dark side?

That first question is pretty easy. "People don't like to be reminded that when they eat meat, it's actually part of an animal," food writer Nadia Arumugam tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "When you have a chicken leg in front of you, there's no denying that's an animal limb."

Shoppers may also perceive dark meat as fattier and less healthy. There is a little more fat in legs, Arumugam says, but only a few calories' worth.

On the plus side, dark meat is rich in nutrients like iron and vitamin B, Arumugam says, "so you're really getting a good nutritional boost with dark meat."

Arumugam says Americans are missing out on a tasty treat, too. "I'm Malaysian myself, and so I really grew up on dark meat. In our house, when we were young, we would always fight for the chicken legs, and the breasts would sit there looking sad and paltry."

"There's a whole rest of the world that loves dark meat," she says. Like Russia, where until recently, all those unloved chicken legs were being sent. "I think of this as a sort of yin-yang of cultural predilections, Arumugam says.

Now Russia wants to wean itself off imported American chicken and boost its own poultry market, which leaves American chicken producers with a dilemma: How to make dark meat more appealing to finicky consumers.

For the adventurous diner looking to try dark meat, Arumugam recommends starting with stir-fry. "The real advantage is, it really stays nice and moist," she says. "It's a great starting point for someone who wants to start cooking with dark meat." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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